Table Talk: The Godfather Deserves Respect


This will be the first year that I live in Las Vegas at the time of the summer tournaments. In years past, I’ve made the drive – more times than I can count – from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, through the dry desert, air conditioning blasting, just to work and see friends  during poker’s “summer camp.” This year, I have an apartment that I call home, and I simply have to drive a few miles to the Bellagio or Rio, Venetian or Golden Nugget to be in the middle of the action. I’m rather excited and having a chilled glass of white wine to celebrate.

For those who have never been in Las Vegas in the heat of the summer or witnessed the seven-week grind of the World Series of Poker and other series at neighboring casinos, it can be exhausting. I’ve participated from the media standpoint, and sometimes as a friend or fan. But I’ve seen firsthand the grind of the players. Not only are they typically playing long hours on a daily basis, but they have to deal with the cold poker rooms versus the 100+ degree heat outside, which presents health challenges in addition to the emotional and physical ones that are more obvious.

So, when Doyle Brunson tweets that he will not participate in tournaments this summer, there is a lot that goes into that decision.

Brunson’s tweet this week said, “I’m afraid I am finally gonna give in to Father Time and pass on tournament play at the WSOP this year. Too many hours”. Many immediately assumed that he was too old, or possibly sick, and couldn’t physically play. Others assumed that he was retiring from poker altogether.

He took to his blog to clarify that he was only choosing his regular cash games over the WSOP, or any major event for that matter. “I just never have really been into the bracelet race and prefer cash games over the tournaments. I enjoy the tournaments, but due to the ever growing larger fields, it’s necessary to play longer hours to get to the final tables.” Playing long hours, it seems, isn’t something that the 70-something-year-old Brunson chooses to do anymore, as he is aware that mistakes can be made when concentration is lost and exhaustion sets in.

Brunson’s message was simple: “I’m not about to quit playing poker! I’ll play until I can’t sit at the table.” It won’t stop people from reading other things into it, but he simply wants to focus on cash games this summer, which is what he has always truly enjoyed and where he makes his living.

He claims to have received hundreds of Twitter and Facebook messages, and his phone has been “ringing off the wall” with interview requests from the media. While this is understandable to a point, it suggests a bit of disrespect for the man we call the “Godfather of Poker.” Isn’t it possible that he is being honest and forthright with a simple statement about his summer plans?

The inference that Brunson is sick or aging to the point that he can’t play poker may be a natural assumption for some, but he mentioned nothing of the sort. He simply wanted to cut people off at the pass by stating his intentions before the WSOP even begins.

Brunson has gone above and beyond for the poker industry, for the game that he loves. He played tournaments long after the thrill was gone for him, and instead of focusing on the cash games that are his passion, he showed up at tournaments for the fans. He spent time on tournament breaks signing autographs, posing for pictures, and answering questions. He has always been open to media interviews, as well as ceremonies, charity events, “shuffle up and deal” announcements, and the like. His support of poker has always surpassed his own needs, wants, and comfort level.

Can the poker industry return that favor with a little respect? In my opinion, it’s only fair that fans respect his decision, the media lightens up on the questions, and assumptions are left out of the equation. A simple “Thanks, Doyle!” or “Good luck in the cash games!” would likely be more appreciated than any other type of attention.

Even with that, Brunson wrote that he is not ruling out the WSOP in its entirety. However, his preference of cash games, not to mention some general depression over the recent loss of his two beloved dogs, may preclude him from showing up at the Rio. Let’s respect that and give the man a little room to breathe this summer.

Join me in a glass of wine, won’t you? It’s about time we simply toast the Godfather and leave it at that.